News Roundup for February 9, 2021

February 9, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street in the News

Codifying IHRA’s definition of antisemitism as law is harmful, The Jerusalem Post
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Antisemitism is a sick, persistent evil – one that we all must fight against comprehensively and diligently. At the same time, many Jewish voices in the United States and beyond are now raising concerns about a potentially harmful effort to enshrine a specific definition into national laws, in a way that could suppress legitimate free speech and debate, and undermine the broader fight against antisemitism.”

Top News and Analysis

In a U.S.-Iran standoff, Biden must be willing to take a little political heat, Responsible Statecraft
Robert E. Hunter writes, “Biden faces strong domestic political hostility to doing anything that could be depicted as a concession to Iran, even if it serves U.S. national security interests, as the JCPOA clearly did. His domestic critics, as well as Iran’s regional rivals, also demand that non-nuclear issues be part of any agreement with Iran, which would undermine any prospects for freezing, let alone rolling back, Iran’s nuclear program in the absence of much more significant U.S. concessions. Demanding the ‘best’ will kill the ‘good.’ The good news is that Biden has appointed Rob Malley, most recently head of the International Crisis Group and highly regarded by the vast majority of Washington’s Middle East analysts, as his Special Envoy for Iran. But he  starts out not knowing for certain whether the Iranians are prepared to deal, a precondition for serious negotiations. If so, they will need to begin out of the public eye, as were the early talks that led to the JCPOA. “

Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights, The Guardian
Brian Eno writes, “In 2019, a vaguely worded non-binding parliamentary resolution was passed in Germany, falsely equating the BDS movement with antisemitism. In a short space of time, this resolution has paved the way for an atmosphere of paranoia, fuelled by misinformation and political opportunism.”

The cracks in Yair Lapid’s glass ceiling, Times of Israel
Biranit Goren writes, “Whatever criticism can be levied against him, Lapid has built – since founding Yesh Atid ahead of the 2013 general elections – a well-grounded party, with a highly functioning organization and an impressive network of activists […] Lapid had built a lasting brand. And then he bestowed all its advantages upon the new rising star in Israeli politics, the great White Whale, the man of the hour, karaoke loving, ol’ blue eyes Benny Gantz.”


81 British Lawmakers Call to Prevent Eviction of West Bank Palestinians by Settler Groups, Haaretz
Eighty-one members of the British parliament have called on their foreign secretary to put pressure on Israel to stop the eviction of Palestian families from their homes in the West Bank by settler organizations.

Evidence stage of Netanyahu’s trial expected to be put off until after election, Times of Israel
The evidentiary stage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, when he will be expected in court three times a week, is likely to be delayed until after the March 23 election, several legal pundits predicted Monday night, hours after the premier’s second appearance in court.

Israeli Soldiers Expel Palestinians While Letting Settlers Stay, Military Documents Reveal, Haaretz
Soldiers have been expelling Palestinian shepherds from firing zones in the Jordan Valley while allowing settlers to remain and even build in these areas, even though the settlers’ presence was never approved by the Israel Defense Forces.

Blinken stops short of endorsing Trump recognition of Golan Heights as Israel, Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday stopped short of endorsing the Trump administration’s recognition of the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel, instead noting that the territory was important for Israel’s security.

Blinken Downplays Lack of Biden-Netanyahu Call, Says They’ll Speak ‘In Near Future’, Haaretz
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken downplayed speculation surrounding the lack of communication between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday, saying that he was sure they would speak “in the near future.”

Opinion and Analysis

Joe Biden’s 2010 Israel visit and the birth of Ramat Shlomo, The Jerusalem Post
Nir Messiqa writes, “In his book A Promised Land, President Barack Obama accuses Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of lying to him about a Jerusalem construction planning announcement. ‘I accepted the fiction that the permit announcement had been just a misunderstanding,’ he wrote. The event caused a political and diplomatic storm during then Vice President Biden’s visit.”

No longer US ambassador, David Friedman is sticking to his sledgehammers, Times of Israel
Lazar Berman writes, “Friedman maintains that by coming in as outsiders without any diplomatic experience, he and others in the administration were able to smash precedents and deliver a number of policy objectives long sought by Israel and many in the United States: moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, normalizing with parts of the Arab world, pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, threatening the International Criminal Court over a war crimes investigation into Israel, declaring that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, and calling the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement ‘a manifestation of anti-Semitism.’”

Palestinian leader’s path to elections is fraught with peril, AP
Joseph Krauss writes, “It’s far from clear the elections will actually be held. Doing so will require an agreement between Abbas’s secular Fatah movement and Hamas, which have been bitterly divided for more than a decade despite multiple attempts at reconciliation. The two sides plan to meet in Cairo this week. The outcome of the talks will largely depend on the 85-year-old Abbas. He has spent decades nonviolently seeking a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Instead, he has come to rule an increasingly autocratic and unpopular Palestinian Authority confined to parts of the occupied West Bank.”

The Netanyahu Trial, Explained, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is standing trial on corruption charges. Here’s a look at the context of the trial, the main charges and the political ramifications.

The goal? Judaization. The means? A military exercise in the middle of a village, +972 Mag
Yuval Abraham writes, “As the residents of Jinbeh await the High Court to determine their fate, Israel’s army decides to hold a large exercise right in the middle of their village.”

Anger grows at Israel’s ultra-Orthodox virus scofflaws, threatening rupture with secular Jews, Washington Post
Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin write, “As Israel endures its third national lockdown, social media has been inflamed by images of black-clad men brazenly crowding schools, weddings and other events, including 20,000 at a recent Jerusalem funeral of a leading rabbi. Secular critics have cast the ultra-Orthodox, fairly or not, as superspreaders supreme, a drag chute on the country’s race to vaccinate its way out of the coronavirus’s grip.”